Sex Abuse Conviction Overturned [USA]

April 8, 2004

The Iowa Supreme Court overturned an Ames man’s conviction for third-degree sexual abuse on Wednesday. Mark Roberson Baker, 27, remains incarcerated today on four charges of providing alcohol to a minor as the Story County Attorney’s Office decides its next step. Baker was serving a 10-year prison sentence after he was convicted of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl and providing alcohol to four teenagers. At trial, Judge Dale Ruigh did not allow Baker’s defense attorney to introduce evidence that the 13-year-old girl previously made a false claim of a sexual encounter with another person saying it “would violate the spirit of the rape-shield law.” The Iowa Supreme Court disagreed in its 10-page ruling. The court said because a false allegation of sexual activity is not sexual behavior, the allegation falls “outside both the letter and the spirit of the rape-shield law.” The rape-shield law is designed to limit the use of a victim’s prior sexual history as an attempt to weaken the person’s credibility on the witness stand. “It clarifies the whole issue of how false allegations should be treated by the court,” said Martha J. Lucey, Baker’s state-appointed appeal attorney. “It is the first such published opinion that I am aware of in Iowa that takes that position.” Assistant Story County Attorney Mary Howell Sirna, who prosecutes sexual abuse cases, said on Wednesday it was too early to say what will happen to Baker. He could stand trial again on the third-degree sexual abuse charge if prosecutors choose to do so. If that occurs, Baker likely would be brought back to the Story County Jail and could have a bond review hearing prior to trial. Story County records say Baker was convicted of buying 40-ounce beers and wine coolers for four teens. About 30 minutes later on June 6, 2001, authorities say Baker and a 13-year-old girl had sex. Prior to trial, the Story County Attorney’s Office and Baker reached an agreement for Baker to plead guilty to indecent contact with a minor, an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in jail. Baker later changed his mind, and the agreement was dropped.

Ames Tribune

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